When your admirers include Paul Weller, Dave Grohl and The Vaccines, you probably are doing something right.
And so The Zombies unquestionably got something right, capturing lightning in a bottle in their timeless classic “Time of the Season,” off their most famous album, Odessey and Oracle, in 1968 right as they disbanded. The album endured, however, and the band eventually returned to stay with the new century in a lineup that is touring on a new album with a stop at The Howard Theater in DC last Thursday.
The new lineup consists of the core hitmakers Rod Argent on keyboards and Colin Blunstone on lead vocals. The duo were augmented by capable veteran musicians Jim Rodford on bass (well known for his work with The Kinks), his son Steve Rodford on drums, and Tom Toomey on guitar.
In concert, The Zombies of course jammed through a powered up version of their best-known hit “Time of the Season,” which spotlighted Argent’s talent on the keyboards as he took them on a symphonic roller coaster ride in the middle of the song. The band later closed with their other best-known song, “She’s Not There,” a quickly paced rocker’s lament of misplaced love.
While the hits by The Zombies are impressive enough, their show quickly becomes something else altogether with the realization as to how deep their individual musical resumes truly are. In addition to closing with “She’s Not There,” the band also closed with a howling performance of “Hold Your Head Up,” the best known song from the self-named group Argent formed in the wake of The Zombies’ dissolution in the 1960s. Blunstone stayed busy in the following decades as well, releasing solo albums and contributing to other efforts. He delivered impressive renditions of two such songs to which he contributed his mighty voice — Dave Stewart’s arrangement of “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” a top 20 hit in the United Kingdom in 1981, and one of the songs he sang for the Alan Parsons Project, “Old and Wise,” from the 1982 album Eye in the Sky.
Best known for orchestral arrangements of their classic rock songs, The Zombies played stripped down versions of their own classics, pleasing the audience of roughly 250 or more who came out to see them for a seated show at The Howard. The audience was positively pleased for folks who looked like they had been waiting for the opportunity to see the veteran rockers for some time. They were pleased enough to deliver a standing ovation after “Hold Your Head Up” in particular.
The Zombies released a new album, Breathe Out, Breathe In, in 2011, and they expressed a great deal of pride in the new material, playing four or five songs from it. The album sat very well alongside the classic material, and the beautifully acoustic strummer “A Moment in Time” showcased the quiet strengths of new guitarist Toomey.
All in all, The Zombies displayed the sort of natural skill that only comes with time and talent. Watching their show, it became clear why they still are thought of as standard-bearers for the baroque pop sound even if they were missing some traditional orchestral instruments — or the storied mellotron, the use of which pointed the way to the sounds of many progressive rock bands like Argent and the Alan Parsons Project and their peers.
I originally wanted to say a few nice things about The Left Banke, but as readers below noted, I clearly didn’t know enough about the band members. Their return was promising.
The Zombies are off to the United Kingdom in September, so no obvious opportunities to catch the band present themselves any time soon. However, it’s well worth catching them to enjoy their absolute professionalism or to savor a big chunk of rock history in one sitting. I’m certain you’ll leave full.